Strikeforce will unveil its brand new "Challenger Series" tomorrow night (May 15) at the Save Mart Center in Fresno, California. The design is to give up-and-coming talent on the Strikeforce roster a chance to show what they can do in front of a live audience on the premium cable network Showtime.
The main card action will air live beginning tomorrow night at 11 p.m. ET.
Featured in the main event will be BJ Penn trainee "Iron" Mike Aina taking on undefeated Muay Thai specialist Billy Evangelista in what should be a barn burner of a fight. Also in action will be Anthony Ruiz, Lavar "Big" Johnson, Miesha Tate, Aaron Rosa, Bao Quach and others.
As always, MMAmania.com will proved live coverage of the event tomorrow night beginning with the 11 p.m. ET Showtime telecast. Check in early and often for updates.
Until then check out the full Strikeforce: Challenger Series lineup below:
155 lbs.: "Iron" Mike Aina (11-6-1) vs. Billy Evangelista (9-0)
135 lbs.: Sarah Kaufman (8-0) vs. Miesha Tate (5-1)
265 lbs.: Lavar "Big" Johnson (11-3) vs. Carl Seumanutafa (4-2)
205 lbs.: Aaron Rosa (11-2) vs. Anthony "A-Train" Ruiz (21-12)
145 lbs.: Tito Jones (6-2) vs. Bao Quach (15-9-1)
160 lbs.: Cody Cantebury (1-3-1) vs. Ben Holscher (1-0)
125 lbs.: Zolia Frausto (1-0) vs. Avery Vilche (1-0-1)
155 lbs.: Ousmane Thomas Diagne (0-0) vs. Kaleo Kwan (7-9)
155 lbs.: Fabricio "Morango" Camoes (9-4) vs. Torrance Taylor (7-5-1)
185 lbs.: Spencer Herns (0-0) vs. Chad Sutton (2-1)
This looks to be a solid lineup for the promotion's first "Challenger Series" event on Showtime. To help get you better prepared for fight night, we took a closer look at two of the featured main card bouts and provided our highly unofficial predictions below.
"Iron" Mike Aina (11-6-1) vs. Billy Evangelista (9-0)
Aina is probably best known for his hard fought performance against Nick Diaz in September of 2007 under the Elite XC banner. Iron Mike lost a decision that night, but he gave the well known Diaz all he could handle. He's also gone the distance with UFC standout Roger Huerta and IFL champ Ryan Schultz during his career as well.
In short, he steps up his game when in a big fight, win or lose.
Evangelista is a talented striker with an undefeated record, including wins over Ryan Healy, Nam Phan, Luke Caudillo and others. He has a solid wrestling background and utilizes very good takedowns and takedown defense in his fights as well. He's a difficult match up for a a lot of guys because he can control where his fights go, which usually means a lot of stand up.
This match up should surprise a lot of the Showtime viewers who don't know much about either fighter, and I mean that in a good way. Both of these guys like to bang, and neither backs down from adversity. Look for a lot of striking from both in the early going, but eventually Aina might look to use some ground work ala his mentor BJ Penn, even though that's not necessarily his strong suit.
The fact is that Aina is a tough as nails kind of guy who can take a lot of punishment, but Evangelista is probably going to be able to out strike him on the feet. Neither guy is exactly comfortable on the ground, but with BJ Penn in your corner, that could be your most reliable weapon against a Muay Thai specialist like Evangelista.
But, as stated above, Evangelista has some solid wrestling and is not easy to take down. Like most of his fights, look for him to control the pace in this one and keep this fight standing. He'll have to avoid Aina's power, but if he can do that, he should be able to pick the Hawaiian apart from the outside.
Evangelista should get his tenth win here. However, it's likely this one goes to the scorecards.
Final Prediction: Billy Evangelista via unanimous decision.
Sarah Kaufman (8-0) vs. Miesha Tate (5-1)
The other fight I wanted to take a look at is the lone female bout on the card. Originally Tate was supposed to face Kim Couture, but personal issues forced "Sugar Free" to withdraw from the bout, leaving perhaps an even more credible and dangerous Sarah Kaufman in her place.
Kaufman is a Canadian fighter who stormed through her first eight opponents en route to earning her place on this Challenger Series card. Each of her eight victims have tasted defeat by technical knockout before the final bell. She's big, mean, violent and fun to watch.
Tate, on the other hand, is more of a methodical fighter. She uses a lot of take downs and has some good ground and pound to go along with her well versed submission game.
This is basically a power vs. technique kind of match up, and it should be very interesting.
Tate's going to have to weather the early storm from Kaufman or she could find herself staring up at the lights wondering what happened very quickly. If she do that by clinching, using take downs and maintaining good position on the ground, forcing Kaufman to fight in the later rounds could be her best shot at a win.
The more tired the Canadian fighter gets, the better chance Tate's technique has of overcoming her power and aggression. But, and this is a big but, weathering Kaufman's storm is going to be a lot easier said than done.
Kaufman is a maniac, and is a very intriguing female mixed martial arts prospect, but Tate has been in front of the Showtime audience before. She won't be rattled by the cameras and the lights, and she should be able to execute her gameplan.
Look for a lot of take downs from Tate and a lot of ground control early. She's good off of her back and better from the top. I think she pulls off a late round submission here, but another technical knockout for Kaufman is just as likely.
Expect a high paced, action packed fight either way. This one could be the show stealer.
Final Prediction: Miesha Tate via submission in round three
That’s a wrap, folks. Feel free to share your thoughts and predictions on the event in the comments section below. And be sure to visit us tomorrow night for all the Strikeforce Challenger Series coverage and discussion you can handle … it’s going to be a fun night!